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In the frame

Simon de Pury puckers up and Marina talks Trump—but Helga Davis steals the show at the Watermill summer gala

The evening’s emcee Helga Davis got a standing ovation for her gorgeous, rich rendition of Coming Home by Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon, from the opera The Temptation of St Anthony, conceived with Robert Wilson and developed at Watermill BFA/ Ryan Kobane

The art—and the crowd—were as lively as the colourful dress code at the 25th annual Watermill Center Summer Benefit and Auction on Saturday (28 July) at the Hamptons residency space founded by the artist and director Robert Wilson. An engaging series of works was installed throughout the woodsy setting (officially compared to an “enchanted forest” in the press materials but more “like an episode of Lost” to one attendee) by artists such as Yto Barrada, Nari Ward and the twin Brazilian street artists Os Gêmeos—who also DJed—while some guests provided additional entertainment. Overheard lines included: “You look fantastic! Look at those boobs”, and “Did she gain weight? Oh, good”—said about a horse. A live auction conducted by Simon de Pury over dinner was cooler than the weather, with some lots receiving below-estimate bids. These included a beautiful sculpture of lips by the Watermill’s 2018 Inga Maren Otto Fellow, Masako Miki, who was in attendance. In an attempt to rouse the crowd’s interest, de Pury gave the inadvisable suggestion that the work could be sat upon. The first lot, a dinner for ten hosted by Marina Abramovic, seemed to get the most attention. The artist (who was present) warned prospective bidders that her conversation would include “dirty, politically incorrect jokes” and that diners would need to prepare for the meal by abstaining from sex—and “talking about Trump”. In the end, two bidders won dinners for $35,000 each, though the auction booklet’s estimate was “priceless”. One auction interlude did present a truly priceless experience: the evening’s emcee Helga Davis got a standing ovation for her gorgeous, rich rendition of Coming Home by Bernice Johnson Reagon and Toshi Reagon, from the opera The Temptation of St Anthony, conceived with Robert Wilson and developed at Watermill.